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Shohei Ohtani shines
Shohei Ohtani threw the fastest pitch by a starter (100.6 mph) and recorded the hardest hit ball of the season (115.2 mph exit velo) both in the first inning of Sunday night’s game. He hit a 451-foot homer on the first pitch he saw, although Ohtani’s night ended unfortunately and without a win during a strikeout that somehow resulted in two runs scoring (and him nearly getting injured during a play at the plate).
Ohtani still has areas to improve, but this is a starting pitcher with absolutely filthy stuff who also hit second in the lineup Sunday night – it’s clear he’s one of the world’s best athletes. Still just 26 years old and now with a healthy arm while hitting in a home park that’s the most HR-friendly for lefties in all of baseball (hello Jared Walsh), some fun fantasy numbers should follow. Is it too early to cash my 40/1 MVP bet?
Ohtani might very well go 30-20-10 this season.
Yusei Kikuchi and other SP standouts
Yusei Kikuchi is throwing harder this year and at the risk of overrating one start, small samples are all we have this time of year, and his first one was incredibly encouraging. Kikuchi’s CSW (40.4%) ranks No. 6, sandwiched between Shane Bieber and Tyler Glasnow. Again, it’s just one start, but Kikuchi looks highly impressive in a stat that means far more than his 4.50 ERA (the CSW leaderboard routinely consists of the game’s best pitchers) and is well worth adding in any fantasy league in which he’s somehow still available.
Others who jump out in CSW through one start (note that it takes about 10 starts for CSW to stabilize, so these are for entertainment purposes only):
• Jose Berrios is #1 in the category and could be in store for the big career-year many have been waiting for after making a tangible move closer to third base. The Twins are also stacked defensively after adding Andrelton Simmons.
• Joe Musgrove has high expectations with the move to San Diego and increased velo, and the dark horse Cy Young candidate just needs to prove he can stay durable.
• Charlie Morton is similar to Musgrove — fully expected to make a big bounce back going to a new team (in the NL) and showing better velocity. He’s also off to an encouraging CSW start.
• Corbin Burnes is somehow 0-1 with a 0.16 WHIP. Burnes’ cutter looks simply unfair, and there’s no reason not to believe he’s the real deal. Milwaukee’s defense is much-improved this season, although that’s not even needed with Burnes on pace to finish with a 350:0 K:BB ratio.
• Zack Wheeler is throwing harder than ever and looks ready to live up to his pedigree. I’m fully regretting not drafting him on more fantasy teams, but at least my Giants once traded Wheeler straight up for six weeks of a hobbled Carlos Beltran.
• Trevor Bauer is worth mentioning given the concern over baseball cracking down on foreign substances, but he looked good in CSW and actually carried a shutout into the seventh inning in Coors Field before getting touched up a bit. Most importantly, Bauer’s spin rate on his four-seamer was close to last year’s.
• Sandy Alcantara is someone I faded across all drafts, instead shrewdly scooping up teammate Elieser Hernandez later. While Alcantara is among the league leaders in CSW, Hernandez is out with biceps inflammation.
• Logan Webb was one of the bigger ADP risers after he posted a 0.53 ERA and a 0.53 WHIP with 22 Ks over 17.0 innings this spring, but he was likely dropped in many fantasy leagues after a seemingly pedestrian first start. CSW says to hold Webb, whose improved changeup should lead to much better future results.
• Mike Minor is someone I’ve already added in a few leagues. KC isn’t the best environment, but he posted a 1.19 WHIP from 2018-2019 while throwing in baseball’s second-best hitter’s park in Texas. Minor looks strong in CSW, and he was top-five among starters in spin rate last season (and showed even better spin in his first start in 2021).
• Tanner Houck is someone to watch. There’s plenty of room in Boston’s rotation even when Eduardo Rodriguez returns.
• John Means business this year. The breakout many expected is on track through one start, with him ranking top-25 in CSW.
And on the flip side, a few pitchers with concerning CSW rates through one turn:
• Clayton Kershaw showed decrease velocity and was rocked during his final spring start, so this may be worth mentioning after he finished top-15 in CSW last season. His outing came in Coors Field, but his fastball averaged just 90.7 mph (it was 91.6 last year). Kershaw ranks 60th out of 66 pitchers in CSW after one start (minimum 50 pitches).
• Cole Irvin got the first opportunity in Oakland’s rotation, but it resulted in him getting rocked both cosmetically (1.85 WHIP) and sabermetrically, as he ranks bottom-three in CSW. A.J. Puk (11% rostered) and Daulton Jeffries (2%) are coming and will be must adds in fantasy leagues as soon as it happens. The A’s would be foolish to waste many of Puk’s bullets in the minors, and he’ll have legit fantasy upside when he’s recalled.
• Zach Plesac ranks last among 66 starters in CSW after one start. There’s only one direction to go from here.
Waiver wire adds
• Yermin Mercedes became the first player to start a season 8-for-8, which seems extra impressive given he entered with one career at bat. Mercedes can hit and has put up some big numbers in the minors, and he’s going to get an opportunity now with Eloy Jimenez out (moving Andrew Vaughn to LF). It would be huge if he got enough action to qualify at catcher, but even as Util-only, Mercedes is a worthy add in deeper fantasy leagues.
• Julian Merryweather has quickly gone from unknown to closing the first two wins for the Blue Jays, including Sunday’s game that saw presumed closer Jordan Romano set him up by pitching the eighth. Merryweather came out of nowhere (originally in the Josh Donaldson deal) and may not show well in projections, but he’s throwing much harder than ever before, averaging a whopping 98.6 mph with his fastball. He’s certainly looked the part of closer recording two saves while striking out five of the six batters he’s faced (his CSW easily leads MLB). With a loaded Toronto offense and Kirby Yates out for the season, Merryweather has a lot of fantasy upside moving forward. Of course, Romano could easily be called to close Toronto’s next game given how silly saves are.
• Akil Baddoo is a Rule 5 pick who forced his way onto Detroit’s roster after posting a 1.210 OPS in spring that included five homers, four steals and 10 walks over 40 at bats. He’s a complete unknown having not played a full season since 2018, when he recorded 11 homers with 24 steals as a 19-year-old in A ball. Baddoo didn’t start either of the Tigers’ first two games, but only because manager A.J. Hinch supposedly didn’t want to overwhelm the rookie, who promptly homered during his first at-bat. He might be a long-shot but with real power/speed potential, Baddoo is worth grabbing in deeper fantasy leagues. Detroit has every reason to play him if he keeps hitting.